A jailed critic of Rwanda’s government said Monday she was detained because she tried to run against longtime President Paul Kagame in the recent election.
Diane Rwigara, who faces charges of inciting insurrection against the state and forgery, spoke out in a courtroom in the capital, Kigali.
She said she was charged “because I spoke about crimes committed by this government. Nobody has talked about Rwandans who disappear without a trace.”
DIane Rwigara escorted by court police
“The government should address the issues I raised because they are legitimate, instead of persecuting me and my family,” she added.
Rwigara’s sister Anne and their mother, Adeline, also face criminal charges. All three women have denie the charges.
Rwigara was disqualified from running in the Aug. 4 election over allegations she forged some of the signatures on her nomination papers. She denied it.
Rwanda has won praise for its economic growth since its 1994 genocide, but critics say Kagame tolerates little criticism. Kagame won re-election with over 98 percent of the vote after saying on the campaign trail that the election was a “formality.”
Rwigara is the daughter of the late Assinapol Rwigara, a businessman who fell out with Kagame before his death in a car accident in 2015. The family has disputed that version of how he died.
In court Monday, Rwigara’s sister Anne said they petitioned Kagame saying their father was still alive when he was pulled out the wreckage and stuffed into a body bag. He then suffocated, she said, in tears.
Anne is accused of calling Rwanda a “mafia state” in a WhatsApp message and of falsely accusing the government of killing her father.
Human Rights Watch recently accused Rwanda’s authorities of arresting, forcibly disappearing and threatening political opponents since the election.